DII Football: Special player at Northern State gets special moment
Football is a painful sport.
It hurts to practice, train for and especially play.
So when a guy puts in five years at the collegiate level, especially in Division II where most careers end with graduation, there can be no question he loves the sport.
But if he does all that work in spite of rarely getting on the field on game day, his passion is even more clear.
That's the story of any great number of college football players, doing yeoman's work without much recognition for years before graduating and moving on with their lives.
But sometimes, the workman gets a moment in the sun. And when that happens, the moment is unforgettable.
One can imagine, then, the explosion of joy on the sidelines, in the coaches' box, in the stands and especially in the heart of one hardworking fifth-year senior when Tyler Oftedahl scored his first career touchdown on Saturday for Northern State against the University of Mary.
Oftedahl, the Wolves' senior third-string tight end from Eagle Bend, Minn., was 52 games, three quarters, six minutes and 13 seconds into his college career when the moment finally came. Oftedahl cut to the middle of the field and backup quarterback Jake Comeaux found him on a line.
That simple -- 26 yards. End zone. Oftedahl was on the board.
As exciting as it was, Oftedahl's memory of the moment is more of a flash than a movie. What came next stuck with him more than the score itself.
"Honestly, it kind of happened so fast that I don't even remember a whole lot," Oftedahl said Tuesday after practice. "But I was really excited. Didn't really see the guy coming from my right though. Popped me real good."
The bruise will fade. But the ensuing celebration will probably remain with him forever.
"Then getting mobbed all the way down the sideline," Oftedahl said. "That was pretty cool, too."
One person who wasn't able to celebrate with Oftedahl in the moment, but surely did thereafter, was tight ends coach Adam Kiefer, Oftedahl's position coach.
Kiefer was overwhelmed in the moment, knowing all the years of work that had gone into making it possible.
"That dude has put in an immense amount of work over the course of his career here," Kiefer said. "And to see that, in that setting, and what a big touchdown it was, it just gave me so much joy. I was up in the press box going absolutely crazy for him. It fills you up with some emotion. Words can't even describe it."
Oftedahl took quite a path to get to this place. He came to Northern State as a quarterback after setting records at his high school for passing yards and touchdowns, then moved to inside linebacker, then receiver and finally tight end.
"I wouldn't change anything," Oftedahl said. "Playing four different positions, there's probably not a whole lot of guys who can say they've done that in their college career. But I wouldn't change anything. Just being able to go through that experience and see so many different viewpoints of how to play college football. I wouldn't change anything."
Oftedahl came two games, 8 minutes and 47 seconds from finishing his career without ever finding the end zone. Needless to say, there's not much he would change.
"He's a type of guy that will come in and not complain at all," Kiefer said. "He will just say, 'Whatever my job is, I'll just go and do it.' That's his mentality going forward, that blue-collar attitude. And it fits our program. Honestly, with a guy like that, to see him score then, in that setting, you just know that, at that point, he deserved it."
Oftedahl, who said he hopes to move to Grand Forks, N.D., after he graduates to connect with his girlfriend, who lives there, and hopefully start a career as a personal trainer, is just a few short quarters away from the end of his football career.
That would be true whether or not he'd caught that pass from Comeaux on Saturday. He's got a special memory to take away from his career, but he'd have had plenty without it.
"Hanging with the guys, road trips," Oftedahl said. "Those are always good times. Just riding on the bus, joking around with the guys after the game. Hanging out in the hotel room with the guys. Can't get enough of it."
Friends are friends, though. A player has to care about more than the guys to get through five years of the punishment associated with being a football player.
"It's about having a love for the game," Oftedahl said. "If you don't love it, you're not going to be able to go through five years of practice, and early morning weights, and spring ball, and all of that. If you don't love it, it's going to show. Like coach (Tom) Dosch says, 'You can't fake it.' Sooner or later, your character's going to come through."
This article was written by Cuyler Meade from American News, Aberdeen, S.D. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.